There's a reason Days of our Lives' Chandler Massey (Will Horton) has a trio of Daytime Emmy Awards under his belt. His acting skills are damn good. And while daytime fans are given ample opportunity to see his skills in the soap opera world, the depth of his talent is ever more present in non-daytime projects like his latest film, Aquarians.
The incredibly tense drama, which has racked up awards and critical praise on the film festival circuit, is now available for streaming. And anyone who's a fan of Massey would be crazy to miss out on his powerful performance as Danny, a conflicted seminary student whose complicated family past has set him and his estranged brother Jake (Shane Coffey) on divergent life paths. In a word, both the script and Massey's performance are uncomfortable. And that's putting it mildly.
"I think 'uncomfortable' is what we were all going for, so I'm glad you felt that way," Massey tells Soap Central of the mood the film evokes. "I remember reading the script, and I really identify with self-tortured individuals, and I saw a good portion of that in Danny, so I was very intrigued."
Written and directed by Michael M. McGuire, Aquarians is a slice-of-life film that delves deep into the life of Danny, who begrudgingly returns to his bitter cold hometown of Silver River to assist his terminally ill pastor, Father Rob (Richard Riehle). As community members accost the young deacon about his family past, Danny recognizes the need to reconnect with his brother, which sets an emotional roller coaster in motion, leading to a violent confrontation that changes the brothers' lives forever.
McGuire describes the movie as "a drama about old ways, new ways, sex, drugs, guilt and ice fishing." And that's just the tip of the, ahem, iceberg.
"Honestly, I loved [the script] when I read it," Massey says about why he wanted to be a part of the project. "It was so different from the scripts that I read every day at DAYS, and that was really refreshing. It had ambition in all the right areas. It was sort of like a slice-of-life movie, but with some really deep, complex undertones. I thought it was really well written, which is why I really wanted to be in it."
What he didn't realize, however, was how much of a challenge it was going to be to film in subzero temperatures.
"I knew it was going to be cold, because we shot in January in upper Wisconsin and Michigan. But I didn't really expect the wet, winter, and cold to be so [powerful]. It was almost like it was its own character in every scene," he shares. "It was always there, and it was always something that everyone had to contend with. And I discovered that I'm really spoiled having lived in L.A., so I struggled mightily with the adjustment."
Before anyone rolls their eyes and thinks, "Oh, another prissy Hollywood star," know this: Massey and Coffey actually filmed their own stunts, one of which was to fall into freezing water below a thick sheet of ice.
"It was on the Shakey Lakes, where we filmed that, and Shane and I actually went under; we did our own stunt that day. And it was the coldest singular moment I have ever experienced in my life," he tells Soap Central. "I remember this woman telling me not to swallow any lake water when I went under, but as soon as my head went under, I sort of forgot all of the advice and took a big ol' gulp. Luckily, I ended up being fine, but it was intense. It's almost like you get the wind knocked out of you a little bit. You feel a little, I don't know how to explain it, just that you can't get your bearings for a few minutes afterward. It was intense."
But that wasn't the only uncomfortable scene Massey faced while filming Aquarians. In addition to battling frigid temperatures, the actor also filmed a squirm-inducing masturbation scene that is just as embarrassing to Danny as it may be for viewers. Which begs the question: is there anything Massey wouldn't do to bring a character to life?
"Well I would do anything for the right price!" he jokes before adding in seriousness: "That's a good question, and I think I really would be up for anything as long as the scene fit within the project and if I believed it was needed and relevant and tasteful. I really do think I'd do just about anything."
That may be interesting information for DAYS' head writer, Ron Carlivati, who is currently amping up the drama for Will and Sonny (Freddie Smith) by throwing a grenade into the mix: Greg Rikaart's Leo Stark, who is giving Salem's favorite gay couple more trouble than they bargained for.
"Working with Greg has been quite a treat for me. He's awesome, and the character he plays is so much fun," Massey shares of his current Salem shenanigans. "It's very difficult sometimes to play the seriousness of the stakes and keep a straight face, just because he's so good at what he does, and his character is larger than life and so good at getting under people's skin. But it's definitely been a huge pleasure to work with him, for sure. And also, I really have to give props to Ron because Will and Sonny have their faults, but I would argue that they are very good characters, on the moral spectrum. And the same with Paul (Christopher Sean) -- Paul was way on the good end of the spectrum. So, it's nice to see a gay character in Salem be a villain. It's refreshing."
That being said, Massey admits that Sonny and Will are in over their heads where Leo is concerned.
"I think Will lives his life in over his head," he jokes before adding that, much like Rikaart's The Young and the Restless character Kevin, there's always a chance the troublemaker may change his bad, bad ways. "No one is beyond redemption in the daytime world!"
Due to the common soap policy of actors having to stay mum about upcoming storylines, Massey isn't able to delve too deep into what's ahead for Will's future. But he does say that his experiencing filming Aquarians will only add to the colors he's able to bring to his Salem alter ego.
"[Working on Aquarians brought me] a deeper understanding of human behavior," he shares. "I think the more roles you play, the more empathy you build, and your capacity for relating to all different kinds of human beings increases."
Aquarians is now available for HD streaming on Amazon Prime Video and other VOD services. If you are not an Amazon Prime member, click here for a free 30-day trial. Check out the teaser trailer below and let us know what you think about the film and Massey's performance as Danny.
What do you think about our interview with Chandler Massey? What do you think about his performance in Aquarians? How would you like to see Leo further integrated at DAYS, and would you like to see more interaction between him and Will? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.